Columbia Business School professor Sheena Iyengar, Cassie Mogilner of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Baba Shiv of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business collaborated to assess the relative satisfaction and commitment to “sequential choices,” as in “love marriages,” compared with “simultaneous choices”, like arranged marriages.
Iyengar’s earlier research revealed that more choices available at one time are associated with reduced satisfaction.
To evaluate satisfaction with simultaneous vs sequential choosing, Iyengar, Shiv, and Mogilner studied volunteers’ satisfaction and commitment to choices of wine, chocolate, and nail polish colors.
Results, forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that “simultaneous” choosers were more satisfied and committed to their decisions than “sequential” choosers.
In the chocolate experiment, participants considered detailed descriptions of fine chocolates (“dark chocolate ganache with black tea and hints of citrus and vanilla”), and chose which they wanted to taste.
The “simultaneous” group saw the entire list, whereas the “sequential” group saw one choice at a time.
After they selected and tasted the chocolate, participants rated their satisfaction with their choice.
Verdict? “Simultaneous” choosers were more satisfied with their choices than “sequential” choosers.
When participants had an opportunity to switch to a different but randomly-selected chocolate, more “sequential” choosers took this option, though they had little information about the choice.
However, when “sequential” choosers were permitted to choose an option they’d already considered, they were less committed to their choice.
The researchers suggest that “sequential” choosers may have regretted forgoing options they didn’t select, and hoped that a future option would be better.
Shiv summarized the dilemma of the “sequential” chooser (or serial dater, serial monogamist): Hope and regret prompt people to move to the next option even though the next option could be worse.
In contrast, “simultaneous” choosers are aware of available options at a point in time, so may spend less time in regret and hope.
Retailers, daters, venture capitalists, hiring managers, house purchasers, and job candidates benefit from presenting and evaluating all choices at one time.
However, simultaneous choice may not be possible, and to avoid the “bias of the eternal quest for the best,” Shiv suggests “mentally converting sequential choices into “quasi-simultaneous” choices by recalling situations when you were happy with you choice, and when you regretted your choices.”
Though an imperfect heuristic, quasi-simultaneous choice may may provide instructive clues to the elements of a satisfying decision.
-*How do you take decisions among many options?
Related Posts on Decision-Making and Bias:
- Detect and Mitigate Decision Biases
- Human Decision Biases Modeled with Automatons
- Overcoming Decision Bias: Allure of “Availability Heuristic”, “Primacy Effect”
- Biases in Unconscious Automatic Mental Processing, and “Work-Arounds”
- Hypothetical Questions May Lead to Bias